As apparel sales have recovered this year, Baby Boomers have led the charge on wardrobe refreshes. Boomers, eager to travel, dine out, and see family once vaccinated, have snapped up new clothes, outspending Millennials and other generations, NPD Group found. Clothing spending by consumers ages 57 to 75 in the first half of the year was up 28% over 2019, Retail Dive reported. That increase was twice as big as Gen Z’s, and five times greater than Millennials’. Boomers are the group that’s seen the fastest growth in online clothing spending amid the pandemic. Within apparel, this generation of consumers has been focused on comfort, basics, sportswear, and sleepwear, per Retail Dive.
Although younger consumers tend to draw brands’ attention, Baby Boomers are an enormous consumer group with serious spending power. They’re known to be loyal customers, with more disposable income than younger generations. Some habits Boomers picked up during the pandemic, like online shopping for groceries and more, may outlast it. “Brands and retailers love to focus on Millennials and Gen Z vying for their share of wallet, but Boomers should not be overlooked,” said Kristen Classi-Zummo, NPD’s director of apparel market insights, per Retail Dive. The apparel industry is expected to surpass pre-pandemic levels in 2021, NPD Group recently said. Compared to 2019, the industry generated $13.3 million more in revenue in the first eight months of this year.
Clothes spending was one component of August’s increase in retail sales. After little need for new clothes in 2020, the return of office time, social plans, and in-person schooling this year had many Americans assessing wardrobes and going shopping. Women have snapped up dresses, swimsuits, jeans, shoes, workwear, and shapewear. More than half of consumers have refreshed their closets because their current clothes are old and worn, they wear a new size or they’re going out more, NPD Group found. Levi’s has said more than one-third of consumers changed waist sizes during the pandemic. About three-quarters of shoppers are ready to change their styles, incorporating color, prints, or fancier clothes, a Klarna survey found. Nordstrom said this summer online searches for work attire skyrocketed.
Top-growing categories in apparel include sleepwear, intimates, socks, underwear, and other basics, per NPD Group. More time at home during the pandemic resulted in sleep and loungewear becoming wildly popular. About 70% of women told NPD Group their pajama-wearing isn’t limited to sleep. Intimates revenue increased by 25% this year, compared to 2019, as consumers sought different sizes and comfort; intimates brand Soma was among those with strong second-quarter sales. Smoothing and wire-free bra sales both jumped by more than 40%, NPD Group said, while underwire bra sales only rose 9%.
Sales of women’s and men’s socks grew 27%. “Consumers are going back to basics, as they return to life in ways we once knew. From bras and shapewear to socks and pajamas, consumers are prioritizing adaptable apparel that provides benefits for everyday occasions — fitting the work-from-home lifestyle, while also making us feel comfortable, confident, and polished as we head out the door again,” said Classi-Zummo, per the NPD Group news release.